That is, besides Creole and Cajun cuisine with restaurants serving this style of food popping up in practically every city around the world. This must be a welcomed advent for a New Orleans band that tours the world right? Wrong.
“When we’re out on the road for the most part we try to have an open mind and do a little local food but [if we do try New Orleans cuisine] it only winds up making us really miss it and want to go home. Sometimes we try to get accommodation with a kitchen so we can cook our own food,” says band leader and sousaphonist Bennie Pete – for those playing at home, a sousaphone is a tuba designed for marching bands with the instrument wrapping around the player’s body.
Homesickness makes sense when one considers that Hot 8 Brass Band’s identity is tied very closely to their community, playing a huge part in why they started – and continue – the band. A lot has been made about their demographic, that they come from The Projects of New Orleans with the band featuring in the Spike Lee directed documentary series When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts (2006) and If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise (2010), with the first focusing on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the second following through on the resonant impact of Katrina but also the newer tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico.
Pete reflects on his and the band member’s lives in New Orleans in 2017 versus when he first started the band in 1996 by bringing together Fortier High School groups: the High Steppers and the Looney Tunes Brass Bands. “[We live in] the same neighbourhood, if not we’ll pass through because some of us have had to move, but the city’s not that big so it’s not too far that you can go, but we’re [for the most part] in the same neighbourhood with our kids at the same schools. We need that: doing local gigs, hanging out with local bands, sitting and doing gigs with other cats, we use all that music to charge us up for when we go on the road, to help us kick it without going crazy.
“When we’re at home we enjoy that time. Right now we are counting down because we know that we have a month left [before] we’re gonna be gone for a while so we’re sitting in with other bands, going to see other bands, everybody making their rounds,” says Pete.
The tour he is referring to will see the band headlining WOMADelaide as well as taking in every mainland capital city. “We have just released a new EP [Can’t Nobody Get Down] so we will include the songs off that but other than that, we working on it, as I say I am at rehearsal right now, working on the show and how we want to present it dealing with whatever time slot we got and how can we fit everything in. It’s like packing up a present of a gift to send to somebody, we are trying to pack as much as we can into this one box that we bring with us – making sure we got a little bit of everything and put it on stage and let everybody go for it. We repping our city as best we could.”
By Dan Watt